As we sit munching on our toast each morning, there are few of us that would even think to thank the demi-god Triptolemus. The one who, according to Greek mythology, presides over the sowing of grains and the milling of wheat, and whose name translates to ‘he who pounds the husks’.
Triptolemus started life as a mortal, a son of King Celeus, the ruler of the kingdom of Eleusis. As a child, he met the fertility goddess and archetypal mother Demeter when his father took her in during her long search for her own daughter, Persephone. Demeter lived in their home and became nursemaid to Triptolemus and his brother Demophon during her period of mourning.
Finally, Persephone was located in the underworld, having been abducted there by her uncle Hades. A deal was struck, and Persephone guaranteed to return to Demeter for a portion of each year. This marked the end of the long fallow period of Demeter’s sorrow, and life once again returned to the earth. Demeter decided to celebrate this event by giving a gift to the world, the secrets of agriculture. She called upon Triptolemus, and taught her foster child all the methods of sowing, harvesting and milling the grain. Demeter then equipped him with a chariot of winged dragons, and he flew throughout the Greek world, teaching the population the proper methods to sow, reap and store their grains. An act that ensured the Greeks would be well fed, even during the wintertime when Persephone returns to the underworld.
“For Triptolemos, the elder of Metaniera’s sons, Demeter prepared a chariot of winged Drakones (Dragons), and she gave him wheat, which he scattered all over the populated earth as he was carried along through the sky”. -Biblotheca 1
Once he completed the journey, Triptolemus returned to Eleusis, and become one of the founding priests of the agrarian cult devoted to Demeter and Persephone, and the first initiate into the Eleusian Mysteries. The Eleusian mysteries were yearly events, the lesser and greater mysteries which marked the initiation into the cult of Demeter. These were based on the secret knowledge that she, herself, had taught Triptolemus, and during the initiation the contents of the kiste (a sacred chest) and the kalathos (a sacred lidded basket), were revealed to the initiates. The items inside were supposed to divulge the secrets of both life and death, and the mysteries of the universe that Demeter had revealed to Triptolemus, something we remain curious about to this day.